AREMO Segun Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State and a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in this chat, explains reasons behind the recent merger of opposition political parties. Osoba, who was a member of the strategic committee that saw the emergence of the All Progressive Congress, APC, accused the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) of allegedly sabotaging previous efforts to form an alliance. Excerpts:
Many people still have doubts about this merger based on the ambitions of some of the leaders. So, how far do you think this can go?
We agreed at our merger meetings that under no circumstances should we debate the process on the pages of newspapers because we are conscious of attempts and moves to sabotage the merger. I must, however, tell you that in principle we are together, not because of political offices, not because of sharing loot or simply because we just want to win the presidency at all costs.
Our philosophy and determination is to redeem Nigeria, we are on a redemption mission. We are determined to regain the lost soul of this country. It is our belief and philosophy that we must create a genuine, trustworthy and reliable alternative to the evil that the PDP has become in Nigeria because they have been in power since 1999. I cannot point out any major achievement on the part of the PDP government since they have been in power.
Why did effort at merging ahead of the 2011 elections fail?
It failed because we had a presidency that wanted to create a one party state and a one party country. The one I can tell you authoritatively about was the Alliance for Democracy. The presidency then funded the breakaway of AD deliberately to sabotage the progressives in the Southwest. But this time around, we are determined to learn from previous experiences and if any of those methods are unleashed, we have our own counter measures.
Some allege that some of those involved in the merger are strange bedfellows. Is it also true that some PDP governors are coming into your fold?
When you call us strange bed fellows, it is a thing we have done before when we all coalesced into the SDP believed to be to the left, while the NRC were the conservatives. Inspite of the different backgrounds and because of the progressiveness in all of us, we survived and produced the best election that has not been beaten. We are back to the days of the SDP where those progressive elements that we lost to the PDP, are going to be the evil that will destroy PDP as a party.
ACN with control of the Southwest is the biggest party in the new party. Is this a plan to return the South-west to the centre?
Our own attitude about mainstream politics is different from the PDP mainstream politics. PDP mainstream is sharing of positions, largesse and pocketing as much as they can pocket. Our own principle of mainstream is true federalism, in which power is devolved from the over-concentrated centre to the federating states.
Fiscal federalism where revenues are shared between the federal and states; each of the federating states can create as many local government as it wants. We want a country where attention will be focused on security, lives and property skillful management of the economy, regular and sustained power supply and the Awolowo philosophy of egalitarianism, equality.
You mentioned true federalism but there is this agitation for local government autonomy, do you support this?
There is nothing like local government autonomy. We had a Supreme Court judgment that ruled that local governments are creation of states. I have never heard of a country where you have number of local governments listed in the constitution making it impossible for states to create local governments as they develop.
Imagine Lagos State, the most densely populated state in this country with the highest internally generated revenue, having 20 local governments. The old Kano State that was broken into Kano and Jigawa states and combined had over 60 local governments. Does that make any common sense arithmetic or political sense? By all means, let each state create as many local governments it chooses. Look at London, it is the most cosmopolitan city in the United Kingdom, it has the highest number of local governments and that is how it should be.
How come the PDP cleared the entire South West during the presidential elections except Osun State?
It was because Adamu Ciroma alienated a lot of southerners with his northern agenda. The North did not play its card well. Religion came into it, Jonathan went to kneel at the Redemption Camp and the born again group went for Jonathan.
Professionals who felt that such people just wanted to grab power for their own interest went for Jonathan. The likes of respected activists, well tested leaders like the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, fought on principle for Jonathan to be made president just like Alani Akinrinade, a retired general who had been Chief of Defence Staff, now donning t-shirts with Bakare and highly placed people.
The Save Nigeria Group went on all fronts demonstrating round the country for Jonathan to be given the power of the presidency when Yar'Adua was sick. At that time, the perception of Nigerians was that we needed to have a young dynamic person to take charge. Go and ask the Save Nigeria Group what their experience is now and how they feel? What do they feel about the situation? It went beyond party politics.
What are your views on Nigeria at 100, where did we go wrong and how can we make it right?
I have no objection to the centenary celebration; it is a fact that in 1914, we were forced to come together as a country. 100 years, for whatever it is worth, is worth looking at, it is not for me now to start crying over spilt milk. We know where we went wrong.
In 1999, the North imposed on us without reference to us in the Southwest, a president and the PDP continued to rig elections, they perfected rigging, created an INEC that was ready to collaborate and cooperate with them, that is where we went wrong. And when I say we are on a redemption mission, we want a situation where we will save this country from going under.